Many tax professionals ask me about radio advertising and do I think it is effective. My answer is yes, radio ads can be effective, but like anything else you have to test it. So the next logical question comes up, “How do you track radio ads?”
When you do try radio ads, they are hard to track so one of your goals for the ad needs to be making an offer that’s “trackable!” Number one, if they are a new customer, you are already going to be asking how they heard about you. Hopefully, if the reason is they heard your ad on the radio, they will tell you.
Secondly, to help the process become easier to track (and actually make a more effective ad) you make a special offer for “radio listeners only.” If they come down to your tax office and say they heard the ad on the radio, you’ll give them $27 off tax preparation fees. (If you don’t find some way to tell if the radio advertising dollars are working for you, you may be wasting a lot of money.)
Our tax business didn’t do a whole lot of radio ads. (I guess I’m more of a pure direct-response marketer so I like to use direct mail media more often than anything else.)
We probably should have spent more time advertising on the radio. Once we determined what to do, we made money every time we tried it in most markets. There was a time in the early ‘90s when I lost money in almost every case because I was learning by “trial and error.” (My loss is, again, now your gain.)
The main thing I learned about radio ads was to pick a certain target audience and a certain time frame and with whatever budget of money you have try to “blow ’em out of the water” all at the same time! Let me explain…
We’ll target the RAL market. We’ll pick a radio station that hits this market the best in and around your tax office. The window of time is the last 10 days of January and the first five days of February. On this station, targeting this market during THE peak of the RAL business, we will run about six or eight radio ads per day for two weeks straight! (On 1/31, 2/1 & 2/2 we’ll run 10 to 12 ads to completely saturate this market.)
Obviously the message is built around “Quick Refunds” and getting your money back fast, but the “special radio offer” has a deadline of February 10th only (to help increase the urgency).
So when we use radio, it is in a “quick hit” style, completely saturating the market with specific offers and deadlines and then getting out fast. (Automobile dealerships do a good job of this at their end of the month advertising blitz!)
** That’s how I got the idea for our tax business and it works!
(Remember what I said about taking successful ideas from other industries and testing them in the tax industry. There really is nothing “under the sun” that’s original these days.)
Another good time to test a radio advertising blitz is the first two weeks in April! (Yes, go after the those procrastinators!) Advertise on rock stations with male audiences 25 to 45 years old. Many “regular workers” and on the road “sales professionals” are the ones that wait until the last minute.
Running a ton of ads between April 1st and April 14th and blitzing the procrastinator market with a special deal saying, “We’ve never done this before, we want to see how many of you are really out there, we can’t do this crazy promotion forever, Uncle Sam wouldn’t let you wait much longer either, etc.”
(It’s actually kind of fun to see if you can stir up the feeding frenzy even more and really get a lot of people calling and coming down to your office.)
Applying these principles to TV…
When you’re using the TV as an advertising medium, you want to test and track the response of your dollars spent here, too. (It’s a lot like radio advertising, but with pictures. ☺)
We’ll blitz a TV ad at different times of the tax season with different messages in different markets. Again I am not a huge fan of TV advertising (like radio ads) because you can’t track your results as well as “pure” direct response.
Many times TV ads help your other advertising you happen to be running during tax season because of the “combination effect.” People won’t tell you that they necessarily saw your ad on the TV, but that may have helped them come in after they saw your Val-Pak ad, too! (The combination of your advertising and what effect it has on your overall response rates is nearly impossible to track. Just count this EXTRA “combination effect” as just gravy if it happens.
And don’t believe the sales rep’s line when he says, “You need to get your name out there.” You are NOT in business to “get your name out anywhere!” You are in business to make a profit and you do that by making more DIRECT sales, not increasing your TV image advertising budget!
You don’t have enough money to do image ads. Let Coke, McDonald’s or Nike waste their money. (They’ve got it to burn!) Now go back to thinking about ways you can measure the TV spots you spend advertising dollars on using direct response.
I “borrowed” an idea from the hotel industry and used it to make some money in the tax business. (Always keep your eyes and ears open for direct response ideas you get from looking at other industry’s ads! I “snag” ideas from other types of businesses all the time.)
Have you ever seen the “Motel 6 TV Commercial” where they make it look like they are cutting your TV screen up so you can use a coupon for their hotel? The visual effect of tearing off a coupon from your TV screen is attention getting and it helps make their offer more clear and measurable.
So I did the same type of thing with a local TV station and one of our tax offices. (The special effects weren’t as good, but it didn’t matter as much.) The target clients got the idea and came into our tax office saying they saw the TV ad and to please give them their $22 discount.
Hey, that sure helped us measure the response better. We might have gotten more clients from the TV ads, but the ones that said they saw it (and the ones we gave the discount to) paid for the cost of running those spots by six and a half to one. (That’s $6.50 of gross sales to every $1 spent on the TV ad.)